There aren’t many things worse than being on a long flight and having to listen to a crying baby for the entire time. It’s the worst. All you want to do is get some sleep so you’re not exhausted when you get to your destination, but the baby’s wails are nearly making your ears bleed.
That’s when you pull out your noise-canceling headphones. You turn them on, put them over your head, and all of a sudden… the noise is gone. Silence. 🎧 ✨
With your blood pressure levels subsiding, you pick the most relaxing song on your playlist and lay back in pure musical bliss. Your own island of serenity.
It is no wonder that so many people choose to make the investment into noise-canceling headphones. Having normal earbuds can be adequate for many circumstances, but sometimes outside noise can be too distracting when all you want to do is get away to your music.
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Gaming
The combination of silence and incredible sound quality is something to behold. For many commuters, travelers, audiophiles, or people who just like some dang peace and quiet, noise-canceling headphones are an essential part of life. For music lovers, it’s an experience unlike any other.
To help you dive into the world of noise-canceling headphones, we at GameGavel have created this list of the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy in 2020. This list will give you some of the most high-end options with the most up-to-date features on the market, and some good quality options that will also save you some money. Either way, you should find a good option for you to block out the noise and focus on your favorite tunes.
Best Choice: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Pros & Cons
- Audio quality is deep, lively, and spatial. Very detailed
- Very simplistic design. Easy to use
- Extremely comfortable. Can wear them all day
- ANC blocks out ambient noise very well
- Not many bells and whistles, no touch controls
- App is sparse. Not a lot of customization options
- Battery life is not as long as competition
- Amazon Alexa included
- On-ear button controls
- Dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice pick-up
- 3 levels of noise cancellation
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Weight: 8.32 oz (236 grams)
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review
Bose has long been known for its high-quality audio and exceptional noise-canceling technology, and they prove all of that right with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Ok, I may be a little bit bias when writing this review since I personally own this pair of headphones, but the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s are simply fantastic.
They are not the most high-tech headphones on the market – they don’t have many of the fancy features that are on other high-end headphones – but they absolutely nail the basics: a clear, detailed sound and exceptional noise cancellation. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s deliver a simple, straightforward, and beautiful music experience.
An important factor for any over-the-ear headphone is wearability. How comfortable are they? Could I wear these for hours on end? The answer for the QuietComfort 35 II’s is an absolute yes.
They are very light, weighing only 8.32 oz (236 grams), and have comfortable memory foam padding on the headband. Ear sweat doesn’t seem to be a problem either after many hours of wearing them. That is always an added bonus.
As I mentioned earlier, the QuietComfort 35 II’s are not the most feature-rich headphones on the market. Those looking for all the features of a top-end pair of headphones might be put off by this, especially considering the price point that the QuietComfort 35 II’s are going for (which is on the high end).
There is no Ambient Aware, no touch-sensitive controls, no LDAC connection, and not a lot of sound customization – all features usually present on flagship headphones. Bose gives you three buttons on the right headphone to control volume, pause/play, and to trigger Alexa, but that’s it. The battery life, too, is just middle-of-the-road at 20 hours.
What makes the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s the “Best Choice” for GameGavel is the simple and quality experience that it gives you. It may not have many options for sound customization, but the sound is some of the best on the market right out of the box.
It may not have fancy touch controls, but the three buttons on the headphones make for simple, straightforward use. Most of all, it is able to block out outside noise very well, something that Bose has been known for many years.
Overall, even though they lack some of the features that are found on other high-end headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s offer a simple, comfortable, high-quality experience that is hard to beat.
Premium Pick: Sony WH-1000XM3
Pros & Cons
- USB-C connection makes you future-ready
- Fast charging works really well: 10 min charge = 5 hrs playback
- All the bells and whistles of a flagship headphone: touch-sensitive controls, Ambient aware
- LDAC connection for optimal sound quality
- Long battery life
- Not the lightest or comfiest headphones (but still very good)
- Auto-ANC doesn’t work as well as it should
- Ambient Aware
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Fast charging
- LDAC Connection
- USB-C connection
- Battery life: 30 hours
- Weight: 16 oz (454 grams)
Sony WH-1000XM3 Review
In a neck-and-neck battle with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s for the best noise cancelling headphones on the market are the Sony WH-1000XM3’s. These headphones offer great sound, a long battery life, and a suite of high-end features, the combination of which earn the WH-1000XM3’s the title of the “Best Quality” noise cancelling headphones on GameGavel.
Unlike the QuietComfort 35 II’s, Sony has included all the bells & whistles on the WH-1000XM3’s.
You get Ambient Aware, which allows you to hear sounds around you when you need to (great for not getting hit by cars while walking down the street); touch-sensitive controls; Auto-ANC, which automatically switches active noise cancellation (ANC) on and off when you get up or sit down, and fast charging, which allows you to get a 5 hours of playback time in just 10 minutes of charging.
All of these features make you feel like you are getting what you pay for: a high-quality set of headphones. That’s good because these headphones are definitely expensive.
All the features mentioned above are nice, but they would mean nothing if these headphones didn’t get the two most important factors right: sound quality and noise cancellation. Thankfully, they do. Sony’s active noise canceling technology is currently the best on the market, taking Bose’s long-held title.
The fact that you can easily adjust the amount of ANC with the Sony phone app makes it even more impressive. The control is great for toggling between absolute silence and wanting to have more awareness of your surroundings.
The sound of the WH-1000XM3’s isn’t quite as detailed as the sound from the Bose QC 35 II’s, but Sony provides a deep and punchy sound that most people will find great. The deep, powerful sounds are great for added immersion when either listening to music or watching movies.
The quality sound is in part due to the LDAC connection, which is the highest quality Bluetooth connections currently available.
As for the build of the Sony WH-1000XM3’s, they are not the lightest on the market, but they are certainly not the heaviest. At 16oz (454 grams), they will feel light on your head. The padding that Sony has provided will allow you to comfortably wear these headphones for long stretches of time.
Look for the Sony WH-1000XM3’s if you are willing to pay a higher price for quality sound, a rich set of features, and a long battery life.
Best Value: Sennheiser PXC 550
Pros & Cons
- Competitive price
- Phone app gives you an immense amount of sound customization
- All the bells and whistles of a flagship headphone: touch-sensitive controls, ambient aware
- Very light
- Good battery life
- Not as comfortable as the competition
- Sound is not as good out of the box as the competition. Needs to be customized for optimal listening
- Ambient aware
- Automatic pause when you lift your headphones
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Battery life: 30 hours
- Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology
- Weight: 7.76 oz (220 grams)
Sennheiser PXC 550 Review
For those looking for all the high-end features of a pair of flagship headphones, but aren’t willing to spend a full $350 to get them, then check out the Sennheiser PXC 550’s. These headphones offer lightweight wear with fully customizable sound and a full suite of features.
All of those factors combined make these headphones, which are $100 cheaper than the first two mentioned, feel like they should be a lot more expensive than they are.
Just like the Sony WH-1000MX3’s, the Sennheiser PXC 550’s offer a great set of features to make these headphones feel high-quality. They feature Ambient Aware, touch-sensitive controls, and automatic pause when you lift your headphones up.
In addition to those features, the PXC 550 has a great battery life of 30 hours. They are also super light on your head (7.76 oz / 220 grams), though not quite as comfortable as the Bose QC 35 II’s.
The difference between the first two headphones and the Sennheiser PXC 550’s comes through in the sound quality and noise cancelation. The PXC 550’s don’t sound quite as good out of the box in comparison to either the QC 35 II’s or the WH-1000MX’s.
The good news is that Sennheiser provides you a lot of customization options to make the sound exactly how you want it. It takes a little adjusting, but you can eventually get a great sound out of the PXC 550’s.
The noise cancelling technology, however, is not quite as good as our top two options. While it can’t quite keep ambient sounds out as well as the QC 35 II’s or the WH-1000MX’s, it still does a good job considering its price.
Budget shoppers looking for a pair of headphones with long battery life, decent noise canceling, and rich set of features should definitely consider the Sennheiser PXC 550’s.
Best Bass-Boosted: Sony H.EAR On 2
Pros & Cons
- Muffles voices and air around you well
- Audio is great out of the box. More bass-boosted
- Sound leakage
- Slightly heavier than competition
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Hi-Res Audio
- DSEE HX: detailed sound
- LDAC connection
- Battery life: Up to 28 hours
- Weight: 12 oz (340 grams)
Sony H.EAR On 2 Review
Another option for great value in a pair of noise canceling headphones are the Sony H.EAR On 2’s. Much like their higher end model, the WH-1000MX3’s, the Sony H.EAR On 2’s offer a wide set of features: transparency mode, touch-sensitive controls, great battery life, and LDAC Bluetooth transmission.
They also come in at about the same price as the Sennheiser PXC 550’s, so $100 cheaper than the first two options on this list.
The Sony H.EAR On 2’s offer a colorful, slightly bass-boosted audio signature which sounds a bit better than the Sennheiser 550’s right out of the box. The quality of the noise cancellation is also quite good considering the price point. The H.EAR On 2’s do a good job of muffling voices around you and blocking air noise.
The one problem that the H.EAR On 2’s suffer from, though, is sound leakage, so people around you will probably know exactly what you are listening to. These headphones are also not the lightest or the comfiest, but they should be fine to wear for long periods of time.
Finally, Sony has a wide range of color options for the H.EAR On 2’s, which is a bonus for people who want a color with a little more *pop* from their headphones than the normal black.
Best for Music: Sennheiser 450 HTNC
Pros & Cons
- ANC is high-quality. Blocks out sound well for the price
- Very affordable price
- Need to play these headphones at a higher volume than other headphones to have it seem loud enough
- Headband could use more padding
- Ears get sweaty after a while from lack of ventilation
- Balanced sound
- 2 year warranty when purchased from an authorized Sennheiser dealer
- Ear-cup mounted controls for changing tracks and making calls
- Battery Life: 19 hours with ANC on, 25 with ANC off
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Weight: 7.84 oz (226 grams)
Sennheiser 450 BTNC Review
The Sennheiser 450 BTNC’s offer a slightly cheaper version of the PXC 550’s. These headphones offer impressive value for the price. You don’t get a lot of the high-end features that the PXC 550’s offer, like Ambient Aware and Auto-ANC adjustment, but you get noise canceling that is just about as good as the more expensive PXC 550’s.
The sound of the Sennheiser 450 BTNC’s is very balanced out of the box. If you don’t like the sound, you are able to adjust the sound of these headphones your liking just like with the PXC 550’s. The battery life of the 450 BTNC’s is very respectable for the price point: about 20 hours with ANC on.
It is impressive what you can get for the price that you can get the Sennheiser 450 BTNC’s. While you lack some of the high-end features that the PXC 550’s offer, you still get a lightweight pair of headphones with highly customizable sound and good noise canceling. Budget shoppers should keep the Sennheiser 450 BTNC’s high on their list.
You saw many choices for great wireless headphones in this list, but if you are looking for more good options then make sure to check out GameGavel’s article on the best wireless headphones.
Noise-Canceling Headphones: Buying Guide
There are quite a few noise-canceling headphones on the market, all of them with varying ability to actually block out the noise around you. There are also a wide array of features options to go along with the noise cancellation. Here is a quick guide for the top factors to keep in mind while searching for a pair of noise-canceling headphones:
- If you are looking for a pair of headphones that are also good for gaming, make sure to check out our article on the best gaming headsets. Many are also good at noise cancellation.
- For cheaper gaming headset options, check out our article on the best budget gaming headsets.
Active vs. Passive Noise Cancellation
There are two different ways for headphones to cancel noise going on around you.
Active noise cancellation is accomplished by headphones producing a sound wave that counters incoming sound waves. The sound wave produced by the headphone essentially cancels out the incoming sound waves, meaning little to no outside sound gets to your ear.
Passive noise cancellation attempts to cancel out the sound by insulating the ear from external noise. It is not quite as effective as active noise cancellation, but it is usually much cheaper.
Overall, active noise cancellation is far more effective at canceling out noise. Always lean towards active noise cancellation if you can.
If you’re interested in this topic, check out how do noise-canceling headphones work.
Quality of sound
You obviously want the headphones you buy to have a good quality sound, but what kind of sound are you looking for? Bose will offer you a clear, detailed sound. Sony offers a deeper, bass-boosted sound. Sennheiser offers a much more neutral, balanced sound.
Most noise-canceling headphones, especially the ones on this list, will offer a good enough sound for most people. But the question for you is, how good of a sound do you need?
If you already have a headset with subpar sound quality, try learning how to make your headphones louder before committing to a new purchase.
Weight of Headphones
A lot of how comfortable headphones are on your head comes down to how heavy they are. The lighter the headphones, the less you notice you even have them on. With advancements in both noise-canceling and wireless technology, over-the-ear headphones have thankfully gotten lighter each year.
What’s a pair of headphones if you can’t listen to them for very long without them running out of battery? Make sure to consider the battery life of the headphones on your list. Many over-the-ear headphones on the market today offer a battery life anywhere from 15 – 30 hours. Some headphones even offer quick charging, allowing you to get hours of listening time in just as little as 10 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions: Gaming Noise-Canceling Headphones
Here are some commonly asked questions that people have when buying noise-canceling headphones:
How does Active Noise Cancellation work?
Active Noise Cancellation is accomplished by headphones producing a sound wave that is opposite of the sound waves that are coming in from their surroundings, thereby cancelling out the incoming waves. The result is little to no sound reaching the user’s ears.
Is noise-canceling safe?
noise-canceling headphones are completely safe. In fact, they may be healthier for you since the noise-canceling effect will allow you to listen to your music at lower volumes. The majority of health problems that happen with headphones happen when users listen to music at high volume for long periods of time.
Do noise-canceling headphones block out voices?
Most noise-canceling headphones are not able to block out voices because of the frequency of sounds that they try to block out – engine noises or jet turbines – are all much lower than human voices. Headphones will rely on passive noise cancellation to attempt to block out human voices, but you might still hear some conversations going on around you.
When you’re browsing the best headphones we reviewed, you may find out that not many of them are listed as the best noise-canceling headphones. However, some gamers prefer to have this feature on their trusty headset. If you’re not living alone or you have noisy neighbors, being able to silent the background noises can be extremely helpful.
However, if you do not have anyone bothering you while gaming, you might be better off investing your money in some other feature that a great headset can offer. For example, take a look at the best 7.1 headset; it might just be what you’re looking for.
- Geoffrey Morrison, Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It, Forbes